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Focusing on the period from 1820 to 1920, Keeping Watch details the far-reaching changes in American society brought about by the transition from natural to mechanical sources of time - from farmers' almanacs and religious formulations of time to regional time zones, synchronized watches, and factory punch clocks. Michael O'Malley shows how the pressures of industrialization, the emergence of the telegraph, and the spread of railroads led to a demand for uniform, consistent schedules. Chronicling particular communities' resistance to standard time and, later, daylight saving time, Keeping Watch also examines the cut-and-paste manipulation of "real time" in motion pictures. The cumulative impact of these technological changes, O'Malley argues, was momentous, creating a harsher ethic of punctuality and an unprecedented degree of labor regimentation.
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Michael O'Malley is assistant professor of history at George Mason University.From Publishers Weekly:
O'Malley here identifies an epic theme: the shift in American consciousness from a "natural" to an "artificial" accounting of the hours. How did Americans wean themselves from insisting that clocks and time-reckoning scrupulously follow the sun, instead accepting "standard" time, the "time zone" concept, and notions of "time as commodity"? The author's answers illuminate and are illuminated by central trends in U.S. history: urbanization, an increasingly interdependent national economy, and the triumph of secular humanism all exerted influence. New York University professor of history O'Malley argues that litigation, special-interest legislation and bitter labor-relations struggles also contributed to the commoditization of American time, while the "scientific management" movement and development of motion-picture syntax serve as vital markers. He penetrates the historical record with a painstaking eye, which is complemented by his caution in rendering judgment. Although original and important, the book rests on an aggregation and reiteration of sometimes dry detail--and, much like a textbook, is all too easy to set aside.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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